First Things is published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and educational 501(c)(3) organization. The Institute was founded in 1989 by Richard John Neuhaus and his colleagues to confront the ideology of secularism, which insists that the public square must be “naked,” and that faith has no place in shaping the public conversation or in shaping public policy.
The Institute’s mission is to articulate a governing consensus that supports:
- a religiously pluralistic society that defends human dignity from conception to natural death.
- a democratic, constitutionally ordered form of government supported by a religiously and morally serious culture.
- a vision of freedom that encourages a culture of personal and communal responsibility.
- loyalty to the Western tradition that provides a basis for responsible global citizenship.
The Institute’s flagship program, First Things magazine, is the leading intellectual journal of its kind in the United States. In addition to publishing ten issues of First Things each year, the Institute hosts educational programs that promote religiously informed analysis of culture, society, theology, and politics. These programs include:
- Junior Fellows Program, a highly competitive residential program for recent college graduates looking to gain valuable experience in the worlds of publishing and public policy. Junior Fellows participate intimately in magazine production, are mentored in all the skills necessary to edit and publish for a broad readership, and take part in the ongoing series of lectures, seminars, and art openings hosted by the magazine, all while living in the heart of Manhattan.
- Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an initiative which convenes key religious figures to articulate the common ground shared by evangelical and Catholic Christians on matters of theology, social thought, and public policy.
- The Erasmus Lecture, which brings a prominent speaker to New York each year to address a crowd of over 300 people. Previous Erasmus lecturers have included Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and Dana Gioia, among many other noteworthy speakers.
- Colloquia, which bring together small groups of religious thinkers to engage in theological reflection over the course of several days on topics of importance. These colloquia not only provide a forum for private, candid, productive theological discussion, but also help to sustain the vigorous intellectual life on which the entire First Things project rests.
- Intellectual Retreats. In 2015, the Institute launched a new program for First Things readers to facilitate a deeper understanding of our culture’s seminal wisdom. The First Things Intellectual Retreats, now held twice a year, provide readers with a weekend of seminars and lectures on a particular topic. It invites them to explore the subject alongside scholars and First Things editors and authors in small-group seminar discussions. The project aims to equip individuals to serve as a leaven in our culture, supporting the long term advancement of a truly free society. The first Intellectual Retreat was held in New York City in August 2015 on “The Paradox of Freedom: Happiness, Human Nature, Politics, and Religion.” Additional retreats have since been held in New York City and Los Angeles, while the next is planned for spring 2017 in the Dallas, TX area.
- An evening events series, which takes places in the Institute’s New York offices and includes over a dozen lectures, art events, and book signings each year. See past and upcoming Institute events here.
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Read more about the Institute and First Things in our most recent annual report.